Saturday, October 31, 2020

Border Fun


There is no end to what you can do with all the stamping tools in your arsenal - whether you have three or three hundred. 

I was asked how the ball border was done that is found on the first photo of our guild calendar:   

So here are two possibilities:   

A:  Draw the first line of the border  (I would do these first 5 steps first on a cut off piece of leather to get all the settings correct) 

B:  Cut the one line with a swivel knife. 

C:  Bevel the inside of the line. 

D:  Place the seeder impressions (here is used S864 - a big smooth seeder) 

E:  Set the compass according to the seeder size, draw the second line, cut it and bevel the inside of that line.  

F:  A very effective simple border! 

G:  You can add another parallel cut and beveled line on either side for a more prominent effect. Here is a related effect with a different tool. It is a D444 - designed for a meander border. 

H:  Used on its own between two cut and beveled lines. 

I:  A smooth seeder added in the middle of each circle. 

More fun: I have really liked doing the rope edge effect with the lined triangle beveler (F910) 

[Search here for 'ROPE' to see the other instructions]. 

Well, someone I am helping getting started took that and did a variation and also came up with a cool border done with a basket weave stamp! Here is a close up - in this section the inside lines of the two swivel line cuts were beveled first with a textured beveler.  

In this one no bevelling was done before the basketweave was stamped with the F910 along the lines.  

In this video are some ideas about using veiners and specifically as borders around a backgrounded area:

(It was a Facebook Live video - so maybe a bit longwinded and in an unusual format)

First Published Jan 2013
Update Feb 2020 & July 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Leaf Liner Weave

Many years ago I explored tooled weaving patterns that was a bit different from basketweave stamping.  So a fellow leatherworker who was also a tool maker, made me two stamps that could do this.  Here is a progression of a weave stamped with these two tools:


The other day I started playing with a leaf liner stamp - you can do many different weaves with is stamp.  (At the end of this post is a video that shows how I hold the stamps to achieve the weaving bars. This first sequence I started with, ended up in a weave pattern with an open block between the weaves:


 So then I made it so that every bar does a over-two-under-two pattern:


 Which led to this weave: 


 Here is the pattern I like most - the weaving bars are angled such that the angle between them is less than 90 degrees and the stamp impressions are a bit closer together:  


.. and here you can see the same weave with a different sized leaf liner stamp:


 And here is the video showing the details of holding the tool - it is my second test with the new camera from Aldi:


First Published Aug 2018

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Fine Writing

Fine Script

This is a can I covered many years ago. The writing was done with a very fine point on a wood burning pen:

To see how to make a very inexpensive heat controlled burning pen, goto the GOURD SITE

Originally posted August 2007.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Getting Leather Soft


There is not a single product that softens leather.
And dyes, alcohol or water based, do not stiffen up leather. 
Let me explain: 
Think of this in terms of the leather fibers - kind-of like the fingers of your two hands interlaced.
When you get the leather wet to tool or form it or dye the leather, and while the leather fibers are limp, the leather is pliable. 
Now as the leather dries, the dye, and to a lesser extent the water, makes the leather fibers sticky, they stick to each other, and when it is dry, the leather feels stiff. 

Many people confuse this stiffness with "casing and/or dyeing dries out the leather".  You will hear often that alcohol based dyes "evaporates the oil from the leather".  [The oil/fat have already be taken out of the leather by the tannery - that is why you can case it and dye it.]

 Now you put oil, a sealer, or conditioner on and nothing changes....!?!?! 

The fibers still stick to each other because of the dye, and maybe now also the sealer. 

BUT, as soon as you start manipulating and bending the leather, the fibers break free of each other and the leather becomes softer. 

If you had applied a conditioner like dubbin or Aussie or Neatsfoot oil, the fibers that break free from each other, get lubricated and the leather feels even softer because the fibers now also get lubricated. 

 I hope this helps!

Published Aug 2016
Updated Oct 2020

Monday, October 26, 2020

Journal Cover

These are fun to make, are not a lot of work and make very nice gifts (any time of year is a good time to stock up on Christmas gifts!).

The insides can be any bound journal - I prefer Moleskin journals.

I want to introduce you to a unique shape I developed for the journal covers.

This is what it looks like from the front:

The "wings" that you see on the right are there for a very special purpose:  they hold whatever fastener you want to use for the journal.   Many people make journals that has string tied around them - often fastened to a button that is on the front of the cover.   What I dislike about most other methods that I have seen, is that the journal cover does not lie flat when you want to write in it.

I use snaps on those wings, and that way there is nothing bulky on the front or back of the journal cover to prevent you from writing on a flat surface.

This design also allows a handy space to slide a pen into.

On the inside I stitch one or two sleeves into which the outer cover of the journal can slide.  In the photo you will see this one has two sleeves - one on the left (the front of the cover)  and one on the right (what will be the back of the cover).   In the photo you will see the smaller easy-to-remove diary planner I was asked to make space for.

The size of the sleeves should also be noted - they are made almost as wide as the journal page.  Again, regardless of whether you are writing in the back or front of the journal, you will have a flat surface behind your page, and not a ridge where the sleeve ends.

I do make the sleeves of the thinnest leather I can lay my hands on so as not to have too bulky and end product.

If I have a sleeve only on one side of the cover for a single journal, I only stitch on that side, but nothing prevents you to stitch all round as I have done here (I had to because I have two sleeves inside).

Here is a video to help you get to the size for your own sized journal:

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Home Made Brush


- by Tommy "Edgar" McLintic

As may be seen on the attached illustrations, the main working component of the brush is a strip of sponge held in place with a rubber band. This type of brush has many advantages:

  • it is very cheap to construct, and to use; 

  • it is very convenient in the sense that after use, the sponge tip need not be cleaned in a suitable solvent, it may just be removed and discarded; 

  • sponge is a far better medium for putting on dyes, stains and other colours onto leather; 

  • and there is no danger of any hairs coming loose from the brush.


In figure 1 the components of the brush are clearly illustrated, and figure 2 shows how the components are assembled into the complete brush. 

The dimensions given are general dimensions, and you must use dimensions that are suitable for your purposes. 

I personally prefer to use a wooden dowel for the handle, but the brush may also be constructed, as shown in figure 3, using firm 8 to 10 oz leather, either cemented or riveted together. 

Instead of using leather strips on either side of the central leather core, strips of wood or plastic may also be used. 

The handle is not discarded each time after use, and a little more time and effort should be spent on the construction of the handle.

The working tip, and most important part of the brush is made of normal sponge, 1/4“ <6mm> thick, and about 4“ <100mm> long, held over a firm but flexible leather core with a normal elastic band. 

The width of the sponge depends on the purpose of the brush required, however, I have found that 3/4" <20mm> is ideal for general purpose leatherwork. It is a good idea to make a few brushes with widths that you personally find useful in your leatherwork.

When the sponge is fitted to the flexible leather tip, it must not be pulled tightly over the leather. The sponge should be a little loose, and not compressed at all.   Should the sponge be compressed, it will work well, but it will not hold any appreciable amount of dye.


The brush is used the same as any normal bristle brush, but in my opinion, the finish that is achieved with the sponge is far better than with a normal brush, and it is much easier to use. The sponge holds as much colour or stain as a bristle brush, but the sponge releases the colour in a much more controlled manner, thereby giving you a much more even spread of colour or stain.

There are circumstances where a firmer sponge may be useful , especially when colouring the edges of leather belts etc., and a few brushes with narrower tips, using a firmer sponge, if available, should be made. 

There is nothing against using normal sponge for colouring belt edges etc. - all that must be remembered, is not to press the brush too firmly against the leather edge. 

I have spoken to certain other leathercrafters and they prefer not to clean or replace the sponge of the brushes each time  they use it for the colouring of belt edges.   They rather let the dye dry completely on the sponge after use, and when they use the brush again, the firmness of the sponge due to the dried dye, is ideal for the colouring of subsequent belt edges. The normal solvents in the dye does soften the brush a little, and this is just enough to enable the sponge to hold dye, but the sponge still remains firm enough for the accurate colouring of belt edges.

The biggest advantage of this type of brush is that the sponge tip is entirely disposable after use. There is no necessity to clean the brush with suitable solvents etc. after use. Simply remove the used sponge and rubber band by pulling it down, and off the leather tip. Replace the tip with a fresh piece of sponge and rubber band. 

So as not to get any dye on your hands when removing the sponge, simply put your hand in a small plastic bag, remove the tip with that hand, and then pull the bag inside out over the used sponge and discard the plastic bag and its contents.

Keep a supply of pre-cut sponge strips for the various widths of brushes that you will be using, as well as a supply of small plastic bags and rubber bands available. This will prevent you having to cut a strip of fresh sponge each time, and to hunt for a small plastic bag and rubber band, each time that you need them.


Friday, October 2, 2020

Acid and Acidity

I posted these questions to the Leather Chemists of America:

  • Is veg tan less acidic than chrome tan?   Holster makers believe this to be true - they avoid chrome tan against the metal of fire arms and report that they have seen pitting of the metal with prolonged storing.
  • Can an acrylic finish on chrome tan give it enough of a barrier that the acidity will no longer be a problem?
  • Can you simply rinse vegtan in calcium carbonate to neutralize it to a pH of 7?
  • I hope you do not mind a 'leather user' joining this forum, but I find so much useful information here! And I would like to use the knowledge I pick up here, to educate as much of us as leatherworkers as I can, as to the proper care and use of leather!

Here is a compilation of the answers:

"The common pH scale is from 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral. Below 7 is acidic, above 7 is basic or alkaline. The hair is removed from a hide with lime and sulfide which produces a pH above 13.

That is extremely alkaline. However, this condition is then transformed into an acidic state for most tannages. It is tempting and almost accurate to say that all leather is acidic, but there are some minor exceptions which do not normally apply to commercial leathers.

Before tanning, chrome leather is pickled in acid lowering the pH usually to 2.5 or lower (very, very acidic). After tanning the pH is raised to around 4 to set the chrome (actually it is the tanning step). In vegtan leather, the process for tannage is a lowering of the pH to set the tannins, but again the target pH is about 4 (a little less these days). Of course these are all wet processes and not the final pH of most leathers.

In chrome leathers the pH may actually end up much higher than in vegtan, but that depends a lot on the coloring (dye) process which is often the last wet process. If a heavy dye must be set, say black, often a lot of formic acid is used to fix that dye, so once again the pH may easily drop below 4. However, it is not just the acid that causes this leather to be very corrosive to metals, it is also the salt and the chrome itself which catalyzes oxidation of metals. Typically vegtan leather is very low in salt, as well as tannins being anti-oxidants.

Personally, I would want a Mossback, lining or other barrier between my gun, metal frame glasses, knife or other metal object stored in a leather protective or carrying case, sheath or holster, but I tend to be a little over the top. Certainly acrylic could do the job if applied adequately. Obviously, in the real world where naked leather is in contact with swords, guns, knives, eye glasses, etc., very routinely, little real damage is commonly seen.

If one would buy leather with low salt, low acid content and proper lubrication for this application (gun holsters) there would be little reason to be concerned. For chrome leather this would probably include a good, soft retannage in order to modify the surface. A good example would likely be found in military specifications for leather used in such applications. However, I have barked up this tree enough to know that no one is willing to hear the story. They just want to buy a piece of leather and go. So if they are wise enough to be concerned, tell them to check out Mossbacking and just use a similar gum, plastic or lining that they know to be non-corrosive.


As to dipping vegtan leather in carbonate of soda.....NOT A GOOD IDEA! This will raise the pH just fine, but that will de-tan the leather. Even de-tanning the surface is not a good idea.

Chrome tannage creates lots of salts in the leather! Sulphates between charged aminos and sodiums as the counter ions, for instance. The fact that most tannages are produced by water-born chemistry, yields a certain corrosivety to leather towards metals.

Vegtanned leather strap was also classically used for the evening-out of freshly sharpened edges of cutting steel, thus artisans feel that vegtanned leather is a natural companion to a sharp cutting instrument. The truth is that most tannages release acids from collagen, or associated materials like phenolic resins present.

My suggestion for cases made of leather is that they should breathe well for moisture release but should have a dry breathing film, water-barrier against the metallic surface being protected and enclosed in the case. I would suggest that the thinnest would be made by a water-emulsified nitrocellulose (Hydrolacker) application on the surface touching the metal, and nothing else! Moss-backs that consist of waxes and protein combinations could be OK, but acrylic resins (paint without pigment!) is too good a water vapor barrier and thus might actually aid galvanic corrosion by helping conduct electric currents.

I maintain that the corrosion of a metal surface is normally occurring through a water containing media, and hence breathe-ability in order to dry-out, is an important characteristic to cases made of leather. I hope this is useful and that the forum helps you."

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Wet or Dry

I recently heard the question if there is a difference whether the leather is wet or dry when you apply Eco-Flo Water Stain, that is the one in the square bottle. 

And Yes, it does.  Here is the outcome of a small experiment: Piece A was dry when the stain was applied and piece B was damp. 

 The stain was applied and you can see how differently they dried (above the black line). I then applied a thin layer of Hide Rejuvenator as a conditioner just to show the true color of the stain (below the black line). 

 So the difference is much less pronounced once you have the conditioner applied, but there still remains a subtle difference. 

The correct way to apply the Eco-Flow Water Stain is explained in this video: